I’m one of those people that finds meaning in just about everything. Even in the greasy pigeons outside my window who quite frequently don’t hesitate to procreate but 2 metres away from me (does this mean I’m forever alone?? Even pigeons can find love?!!) Anyway, I know that it’s just an anxious pattern to unconsciously (or consciously) seek reassurance when feeling a little on edge, but it can also be quite handy to conjure up some content – so, win win. (Thanks anxiety, for once you come in use for something!)
But alas, randy pigeons aside, I read a quote in a magazine by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh in which I found some actual profound meaning:
To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width
Whether you follow this blog or know me personally, you’ll also know that I’m leaving the country soon. Like, in 9 days soon. (And before you ask, no I of course have not begun to process this in any way shape or form! Wahoo!) So this quote hit home quite a bit.
While my time has been ticking down in London, I’ve been quite flustered in trying to do all of the things, see all of the sights, spend as much time as possible with all of my friends, tick off all of the bucket list stuff, because I don’t know when I’ll be back – and I don’t think anywhere could replicate London’s unique charm, identity and of course, history.
I walked the equivalent of three half marathons in three days, around central and east London in various loops, because I believe the best way to soak up a place is to do so by foot (or by bike). I finally tried the restaurants I’d been meaning to go to for ages. I went and strolled through the Royal parks I’d been ashamed to say I’d only just been to now as I’m leaving. I took myself up to Sky Garden for an impressive panoramic view of the place I’ve lived in on and off for four years. I popped to Brighton for the day and ate vegan fish and chips on the beach in the sun. I took myself on some bike rides, had old friends stay for a long weekend and revisited streets and places that hold some nostalgia for me. But still, it didn’t feel like I’d done enough. It still feels like I haven’t made the most of the city, I still have that nagging feeling of I haven’t got enough time to see everything. What a shame.
But then I stumbled across this quote again that I’d originally read a year ago. It made me think, actually no, I can’t possibly see or do everything. That’s a ridiculous idea! I can’t expand the width of my activities and choices or things I’m doing any more. I need to focus on the depth of what I’m doing instead. I need to enrich the experiences I’m having by not needing to do more. To be fully immersed in the now, in other words, and not in a future which is not real. To make peace with that you simply cannot do everything. You can’t! And that’s ok. What’s more important is making the most of the time you do have.
And of course – full circle – this applies to everything in life, right? Instead of constantly seeking out more, thinking about what’s lacking, worrying about what needs to be done, fixating on scarcity and that time is running out, what if you tried the inverse? What if you threw yourself into everything you did, from waking up in the morning to the big events in life? What if you absorbed every fraction of every moment so richly that you didn’t actually feel that nagging need for more?
It might feel like a cop out, or that you are wasting time, or that you are being uninventive or lazy – trust me, your ego will stop at nothing to perpetuate these narratives. You simply have to release them knowing that they aren’t true. When it comes down to the fundamentals, there is no moment that is more important than the moments we have right now, because nothing else is as immediately real.
So in my context, I’ve decided that I’ve done my best, I’ve probably even got to the point of semi-exhaustion from trying to fit everything in and run around like a headless chicken on speed, but ultimately, and realistically, there’s no way I could ever complete that list, which is fine. I am simply so grateful for every second I’ve been able to spend with my precious friends who I’m going to miss so badly. No other people could fill those gaps and life will certainly feel a little strangely empty without them. For every glass of wine clinked, every delicious mouthful shared, every eye-wrinkling laugh had, every crunch of the twigs from our feet walking on the forest path, every warm tear-stained goodbye hug, every moment of pure comfortable silence, for every song sung in taxi rides home, every space shared in the warmth of the spring sun, every cosy moment sat inside in awe of the ancient London pubs, every split second of joy luckily captured on camera, every spontaneous ‘Shall we order some food?’s. All of it.
A lump has just risen in my throat thinking about the reality of leaving. Like I said earlier, I’ve barely started grasping the fact that I’ll be out on my own again soon with only the company of two rucksacks. But deciding to cherish the depth of every interaction I’m lucky to have left with the people I love, I am sure that each memory will remain as sharp as ever, if not sharper than ever.
So, I implore you to do the same in life. Don’t focus on width, focus on depth, in whatever you do. Whether this is in creative endeavours, relationships, your career, your health, your purpose, throw everything you have into whatever is important to you and I can almost guarantee that your life will become a richer picture for it. Instead of life being short, life becomes longer for all the right reasons.
I like this concept of depth greater than width. I think a lot of people are overwhelmed at the velocity of life these days. So many concerning headlines, so much content and choices being offered, etc. And just like you wrote, you can’t do/have/see/experience everything. Better to focus in on those things you are most passionate about, and plumb those depths to get everything you can enjoy from them.
It’s nice isn’t it? It makes life a lot less overwhelming, it feels like you can really grasp the concept of abundance realistically. I agree, a narrowed focus makes for a richer life.
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